Thursday, 23 October 2014

Barcelona: Making Everywhere the Same!

Threat to our culture from globalisation 

LAST July, residents of La Barceloneta, a seaside area of Barcelona, held street protests to object about the noisy tourists hanging around, and putting-up in overcrowded and unlicensed rented appartments.  This is port suburb of the city, where when I first visited in early 1963 it had a shanty encampment of migrant workers on the beach, and I wrote an article for the FIJL (young libertarian/ anarchist) publication 'Nueva Senda' entitled 'Where the tourist never go!'.  But since 1992, when this port area was tarted-up and overhauled for the Summer Olympic Games, this area has become more fashionable and tourist friendly. 

Barcelona had a record 7.5 million visitors last year, compared with about 1.5 million visitors before 1992.  More recently with the slow removal of rent controls Barcelona has suffered from a gradual gentrification with traditional shops being priced out by multi-national stores in the older parts of the city, and this is now destroying the character of the old historic town and provoking a questioning of what's going on.  Next May, Barcelona is down to hold municipal elections, and these issues are now on the political  agenda.  
Ada Colau, who is expected to run for Mayor of Barcelona as the candidate of of a leftist civic platform, has said she and her family stopped going to the Gothic Quarter because it was overwhelmed by foreign tourists and global brands.  She has said:  'The main attaction of Barcelona is a certain way of living, but we are allowing this to be replaced by what I would call a fast-food model.' 

In 2005, Tameside Trade Union Council invited the Catalan town planner Edward Masjuan, who was then associated with the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist CGT (General Confederation of Labour), to Manchester, and he spoke alongside the blacklisted electrician Steve Acheson at the Friend's Meeting House.  Mr. Masjuan then told us of the difficulties the city of Barcelona was facing, including the planning failures that had forced many of the traditional residents of the city out of the centre and areas like Barceloneta.  This had led to many having to live on the outskirts of the city and created social problems.  Masjuan also said that at that time political corruption was a serious concern in the city.  

Now with many traditional shops having to close down because of the higher rents being asked many jobs are being lost and it seems that the multi-national stores are winning the battle for business.

No comments: